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Reds, P&G form winning team for community
CINCINNATI -- One Cincinnati institution remains very thankful for another when it came to community outreach in 2012.

It was a year when the Reds and their nonprofit arm, the Reds Community Fund, formed a significant partnership with one of the city's largest corporations, Procter & Gamble.

P&G donated $2 million this year to the Reds Community Fund toward the construction and completion of the Reds Urban Youth Academy. The estimated $5.5 million facility is scheduled to begin construction in summer 2013 with an expected opening in spring 2014. It was the largest single donation in the Reds Community Fund's history.

"For us to get P&G on board at that level was probably one of the most significant developments in our history," said Charley Frank, the executive director of the Reds Community Fund. "We're a roughly $1.5 million annual entity that's been operating outreach for just over a decade. And with P&G's level of commitment, for them to embrace this project at that dollar figure is seismic for us."

The new Urban Youth Academy, to be located at Roselawn Park in the northern part of Cincinnati, will be a two-phase project. The first phase will be the completion of four outdoor baseball fields, with a two-story observation tower, restrooms and concessions that will resemble on a smaller scale the Reds' Spring Training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. The main field be full-sized and made of synthetic turf, and one of the fields will be the home of championship-caliber softball for girls.

"It will give the city a much better ability to attract tournaments," Frank said.

The second phase will be the construction of a 32,000-square-foot indoor training center that can be used year-round by local youth and coaches. The target construction date is spring 2014 with a ribbon-cutting in spring 2015.

"It should be the first northern climate Urban Youth baseball academy in the Major League Baseball network," Frank said.

The $2 million P&G donation to the academy will cover a five-year span, but the company's commitment to the facility is in perpetuity and includes having permanent naming rights on the complex.

The current version of the Reds Urban Youth Academy is in its fourth season at the Gamble Montessori School in Winton Terrace and continues to provide free, year-round baseball and softball instruction to youth ages 8-18.

Since its opening in 2009, participation at the Urban Youth Academy is up by roughly 400 percent, according to Frank.

Another of the Urban Youth Academy's bigger benefactors in 2012 was none other than actor and lifelong Reds fan Charlie Sheen. During an August visit to Great American Ball Park, Sheen donated $50,000 to the Community Fund with a specific target toward helping the Urban Youth Academy.

Sheen made the donation to match the funds raised from the on-field head shaving of broadcasting icon Marty Brennaman, who vowed to have his trademark hair shorn if the Reds won 10 games in a row. What originated as a simple bet became a charity drive that benefited the Reds Community Fund general operating fund and the Dragonfly Foundation, which supports children with cancer and their caregivers.

"When Charlie Sheen matched the gift, he spent some time with us, and to his credit, he found out more about what we do," Frank said. "Pretty quickly, he decided to earmark his contribution towards the Urban Youth Academy capital campaign."

Back to P&G, the company had a stepping-stone project the past couple of years in the form of the Reds-P&G Community Makeover. This year's project, completed in Cheviot, Ohio, saw the roughly $250,000 renovation of three baseball fields and a historic gymnasium. One of the fields had the oldest grandstand in Ohio and was a site where ex-Major Leaguers like Pete Rose, Don Zimmer and Jim Frey once played.

"And so many youth players still play there," Frank said. "It's really a talent hub and resonated so much for that neighborhood. What you have now is a primary field that is really championship caliber, a grandstand that has been rebuilt and repainted. It looks like a Minor League Baseball stadium, which is fantastic."

In 2011, the Reds and P&G teamed in North College Hill to rebuild fields and a turned a vacant school into a community center.

Applications for the 2013 Community Makeover and a separate Reds Community Fund field makeover, are being accepted until Jan. 15.

"This is really an amazing resource for the some of the communities that have stepped up, spent time us and learned more about it," Frank said. "It's a transformative type of gift. It's more than just a check and even more than just one day of having 400-plus volunteers descend on one site. There's a lot more to it, especially given the time, effort and spirit of the Procter & Gamble volunteers and the incredible level of investment and passion that Bob and Phil Castellini and the Reds have continued to make in the program."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.

Cincinnati Reds